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20 October 2004

 

Weltjournal (World Journal)

 

Iran - Nuclear Capability

 

 

It is very difficult to judge whether the development of nuclear energy is part of a program to provide a source of power or as a means to produce the world’s most deadly weapon: the atomic bomb.

Iran has been working on a secret nuclear program for 18 years, and is very close to being able to build its first Atomic bomb. International inspectors in Iran are rarely allowed access to these nuclear facilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA is facing its biggest challenge.

Negotiations like these are so important, that the head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei was nominated for the Noble Peace Prize.

Mohamed ElBaradei, Head of IAEA:


"Any country that aims to acquire nuclear weapons is a grave threat to international peace and security, particularly in a region like the Middle East which is full of hostility, full of distrust, and full of instability. So, one use of the nuclear weapons could be the beginning of the doomsday."

Alireza Jafarzadeh, Iranian Opposition, Washington:

"Iran is very close to getting the bomb. There was one report that I received in late June, 2004 that there was a meeting, a secret meeting, held in Tehran, attended by supreme leader Khamene’i and a number of senior officials of the Iranian regime, where Khamene’i ordered the Iranian officials to speed up the nuclear weapons program in order to give Iran the nuclear capability by mid next year, that’s mid 2005."

 



The Iranian Shahab-4 rocket can reach Israel, Egypt and Turkey. But it can also reach a significant portion of Europe. The Iranians are working on a larger missile range of 4.000 kilometers.

Alireza Jafarzadeh uncovered the Iranian clandestine nuclear program. He is spokesman for an Iranian opposition group in Washington. They amassed all the evidence: and the evidence was disturbing: buried bunkers, and secret reactors- unknown to the world for years despite modern satellite technology.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, Iranian Opposition, Washington:


"I think the IAEA was amazed with the level of advancement. The whole world was shocked, because Iran had never announced or declared any of these sites."


The Iranian nuclear program is conspicuously large. All together there are 15 different nuclear sites located throughout the country. The Iranians say these are for peaceful purposes only- but suspicions remain: Why is the world’s fourth largest oil producing country putting so much effort and money into nuclear energy? Why do they want to investigate the nuclear cycle? The size and capacity of these underground facilities is beginning to worry the experts.

 

 

Corey Hinderstein, ISIS, Washington (security expert):


"Well, certainly we are worried that they are developing a uranium enrichment program that is quite large and what that means is that even if they do not currently have a nuclear weapons program, they would have an infrastructure that if they decide to make a nuclear weapon and to make the highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapon, they could do that very quickly."


Iran first attempted to develop a nuclear capability in the sixties, when the Shah with the help of the Americans built the first nuclear reactor. In the seventies the German company Siemens started the construction of the nuclear plant at Bushehr.

 

 

The construction of one reactor has been completed; the second is already on its way.

In the aftermath of the mullah revolution, the Mullahs stated that nuclear power was fundamentally un-Islamic, but they soon changed their mind. Because of American pressure, Siemens did not finish the construction of the nuclear plant at Bushehr themselves. Instead, the Iranians asked for help from the Russians who were all too willing to oblige.

But what everyone had misunderstood was that behind the facade of a civilian nuclear program, the Iranians were contemplating a fledging nuclear weapons program.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, Iranian Opposition, Washington:


"Bushehr will give the proper cover and facade and justification for the Iranian regime’s nuclear weapons program. Because so long as they have the Bushehr program going on, they can justify having hundreds of nuclear scientists, they can justify all their nuclear research and the labs and the works they are doing."


Iran has previously stated that it will start with the production of uranium hexafluoride, the base for uranium enrichment. The Europeans had tried through diplomatic means to convince Iran not to attempt the enrichment of uranium, the vital substance used in the creation of nuclear weapons.

 

Hinderstein:


"The amount of uranium hexafluoride that Iran would like to make out of their current stock of yellow cake would be enough for about 5 nuclear weapons. Now that kind of quantity is very small in the context of a civilian program but very large in the context of a burgeoning nuclear weapons program."


In the head offices of the IAEA in Vienna, the inspectors are testing samples gathered from Iran. Inconsistencies have already come to light.




Comparisons can readily be made with Iraq, but how real is the threat from Iran?

 

Hinderstein:


"Certainly the WMD threat posed by Iran is very different than the one posed by Iraq, particularly the nuclear threat. We have on the ground, hard evidence about what the Iranians have that we never had with regard to Iraq."

 

It is not the first time that the IAEA has discovered a secret nuclear program significantly after its nascent phase. The dealings of Pakistani nuclear physicist Dr. Khan, who sold nuclear bomb technology internationally, were not discovered for many years and only then when he confessed to the Pakistani government.

 

Is the IAEA at fault for not being able to control the Iranian nuclear program?

 

Mohamed ElBaradei, Head of IAEA:


I can now sit in Vienna here and see what is happening in a facility in Switzerland for example you know exactly if someone is moving inside the facility, I see that on the television screen. So the technology is very sophisticated. But we can not, we are not gods, we do not see intentions.”


The situation has been well monitored, but the West does not have a lot of clout. The oil price is already high. Sanctions would raise it even higher. And it would appear that due to the intervention in Iraq, an American led military intrusion into Iran is not feasible at this stage.

Iranian diplomats argue that they are merely protecting themselves against Israeli nuclear threat. Those who are opposed to such a program see different motives behind the mullahs’ efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.


 

Alireza Jafarzadeh, Iranian Opposition, Washington:


"Nuclear weapons is a must for the ayatollahs in Iran, because the ayatollahs in Iran have a grand agenda for the whole region. They want to impose their hegemony on all the Islamic countries and the countries in the region. They want to establish a global Islamic rule, and a necessary part of their strategy is to arm themselves with nuclear weapons."

 

The Iranian issue can no longer be ignored. IAEA scientists now have samples from Iran containing traces of enriched uranium. But how can we restrict the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions? For the moment, the US and the Europeans cannot agree on a joint policy.

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